Spending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.
Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Week In Sports Happiness comes into play.
Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.
Without further ado, sports the good:
1. Angel Cabrera
I fell in love over the weekend. I fell in love with a 265 pound, 43-year-old man, named Angel Cabrera.
For someone who hasn’t grown up idolizing golfers, the treatment they receive at the hands of broadcasters and fans can seem strange. Among athletes, only boxers are more “godded up” than golfers by fawning sports media members. I watched the Masters last weekend for the first time in a long while, and it really only became interesting to me on Saturday when Cabrera emerged as a potential winner. Where other golfers seemed to employ a cautious approach in their play, Cabrera played with a reckless abandon. He aimed every shot he took directly at the pin, no matter what might have been a safer approach.
Of course, this style led him into a playoff for the Masters title with Adam Scott. He eventually lost on a missed birdie putt that was less than an inch from going in the hole. However, I can’t escape the feeling that while Scott may have won the Masters, Cabrera won a selection of fans over with his seemingly irreverent style of play. It’s not the worst consolation.
2. Skate-To-Stick Goals In Hockey
I asked our resident hockey expert Justin Bourne if there was a slang term used for hockey players taking a pass with their skates, redirecting it to their stick and scoring a goal. There isn’t. I think they should be christened Middletons after that goal that Rick Middleton scored against the Quebec Nordiques where he deked around a defenseman and then kicked the puck to his stick as the goalie dove the other way. You know the one that I’m writing about. It used to close out every episode of Don Cherry’s Grapevine.
It might be my favorite play in hockey.
I mention it because Vincent Lecavalier scored the 900th point of his career last Tuesday by kicking a rebound to his stick and, in the parlance of the sport, firing it home.
3. Jayson Werth’s Walk Up Music
When I think of good writing, I think of writing that describes something within myself that I didn’t realize was true before reading someone else expressing it. Michael Baumann, writing for Crashburn Alley did this for me last year when he wrote about Jayson Werth being his platonic ideal of a baseball player.
A phenomenal percentage player and possessed of obscene plate discipline, Werth nevertheless excelled at the exciting aspects of the game: throws to the bases, baserunning and hitting for power. Still not worth the contract the Nationals gave him, but he’s my platonic ideal of a baseball player.
That about sums up my feelings on Werth, as well, and perhaps even more so after this:
It’s hard to hear, but Werth is walking up to the plate to the theme song from Game Of Thrones. I’m not an avid fan of the television program, but I derive no uncertain amount of pleasure from Werth doing something differently than what 99% of baseball players do, and having a little bit of fun with his entrance music.
4. The Foolishness Of Youth
Ahead of last Saturday’s Jordan Brand Classic , a high school basketball all-star game held annually in Brooklyn, USA Today asked several of the All Americans how they’d fare in a one-on-one matchup against Michael Jordan in his prime. Adorably, half of them believed they could take him.
It’s reminiscent of the story of Jordan visiting his alma mater when Jerry Stackhouse was playing for North Carolina, and showing “the next Jordan” a thing or two about being the current Jordan during a game of one-on-one.
Never mind his prime, I’m not entirely sure high schoolers would have the easiest of times against Jordan right now. Here’s some footage of him working out at a Bobcats practice earlier this season.
5. Practical Jokes
A couple of weeks ago, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning spent some time at the Duke University practice facilities, working out with several NFL receivers, including his teammate Eric Decker. Last week, Manning created the above invoice, and sent it to Decker care of the Denver Broncos as part of a well-timed practical joke. My favorite part is quite clearly the $20 per session laundry fee.
6. Lionel Messi Vs. A Robot Goalie
Footage of the best soccer player on the planet taking penalties on a robot goalkeeper is amazing for several reasons – most notably the “not goal” or “goal” judgments – but its easy to overlook how incredible Lionel Messi’s problem solving abilities are. He gets stopped the first time, he misses the second time, and then he scores, because he learns the possible vulnerabilities of his opponent from his own failures.
Obviously, Messi’s skill makes him such a celebrated footballer, but this silly little video offers us some insight into how he uses that skill so successively.
7. Baseball In The Snow
A scheduled game between the New York Mets and the Minnesota Twins was cancelled on Sunday due to “wintry conditions” at Target Field. Then on Monday, after the Mets had traveled to Colorado, their game against the Rockies at Coors Field was once again, cancelled due to “wintry conditions.” Never ones to get put out by such things as the weather, some members of the Mets took the field in Denver despite the conditions.
8. Christian Eriksen
With their 3-2 victory over PSV in Eindhoven, Ajax increased their likelihood of being crowned the champions of the Eredivisie for the third time in as many years. This is as much the doing of their young attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen as it is any other part of their squad. Eriksen, whose career with Ajax is almost destined to conclude during the next transfer window when he moves to a larger club, scored what may be the most remarkably unremarkable goal in the Dutch top flight this season against his team’s main rivals on Sunday.
To watch the video above, it might seem like any other goal in any other soccer match, but watch it again. Eriksen moves so quickly down the wing, despite having a more central role. He strides into the box with the ball, makes one move at the perfect time which opens up the defender’s legs as he steps toward the Danish player’s new angle, and as quickly as imaginable, Eriksen fires the shot between the defender’s wickets, which just so happens to be at the same line to reach the inside of the post, outside of the keeper’s reach.
Transfer rumors are going to be exceedingly fun this summer.
9. Shaquille O’Neal Dressed For Golf And Carrying Bubba Watson Like A Baby
While viewing this photograph, keep in mind that Bubba Watson is 6’4″ and probably weighs around 200 pounds.
10. Support For Boston
Following Monday’s tragedy in Boston, when the detonation of successive bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured 140 more, it’s seemed insensitive to write about trivial matters. Sports are so unimportant to begin with that when something as significant as the violent end of human life occurs, the importance one attaches to vicarious experiences feels especially microscopic.
Nonetheless, a purpose is served by taking pleasure in the things that we enjoyed prior to these horrific incidents occurring. At least, this is how one must justify the carrying on of one’s business after horrible things have happened.
This carrying on has been made easier by the exemplary efforts of many in the sporting world who immediately exhibited an understanding over what was important and what was not after tragedy struck. This went beyond local franchises merely cancelling or suspending games, as even rivals from around different leagues threw off the guise of competition to offer their support to those in Boston experiencing physical and emotional pain.
This included moments of silence to focus our thoughts on the people of Boston and individual athletes marking their equipment with the suggestion “Pray for Boston” written out for all to see.
Both Keith Aucoin of the New York Islanders …
… and Ben Revere of the Philadelphia Phillies …
… acted as examples of athletes using their platform to offer support. However, perhaps the most impressive bit of support on display came from the most unlikely of sources. Given the bitterness of the rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the Yankees’ decision to place several signs around their stadium uniting the two teams, and even sing “Sweet Caroline,” Boston’s traditional 8th inning crowd song, in New York.
Yes, in the grand scheme of things, writing on your skate blade and singing a song at a baseball game isn’t likely to change anything. What it does do is act like a token of support that puts the so-called importance of sports in perspective to what really matters. As small as it may seem, its a visual and spoken display of support that suggests differences on a playing field, court or rink don’t matter all that much when people are suffering.
That’s a good thing, and it’s what these lists are all about, finding moments in sports that make us happy.